2017 Games Reflections - part 4 - My Emotions by max el-hag

I named my business “Training Think Tank” purposefully because I didn’t want my business to be about me. I wanted it to be about good ideas and a community of good people. Despite some material success, I never really had ‘self confidence,’ so I thought it was disingenuous to market myself as someone who had good ideas or who was good. Even though so much has changed, not much has changed since I started the business, and I truthfully don’t like having to write about myself. But, I do like growing my business, I do like having time to train, I do like having access to great athletes, and I do like being able to attract great people to my cause to help me build a better tomorrow, so I’m learning to enjoy the process. I also think it would be selfish if I didn’t share my thoughts since so many people have expressed concern for my emotional state. I think if I were to put my emotions into one word, I would say I am “overwhelmed.” When I say that I mean that I just don’t have clarity yet and I think I need the future to help change how I feel about the situation, and give me the space to forget some of the negative experiences. But, some of the feelings are as follows:

1- Sad. Losing sucks. I have to be right there in the warm up area, in their training, and in their lives. Then I take the long walk to the stands and sometimes have to watch a loved one’s dreams disintegrate. I aim to be steady for them and keep them focused as things are going badly so that they don’t think about me, and can stay focused on the competition. It’s so easy in that environment to lose focus and give up before it’s even over. I know there is nothing I can really do in that moment but remind them of the big picture, but it is still such a helpless feeling. I wish I could believe that I had some sort of control in those situations but I have long since realized that we really don’t have control. We only temporarily delude ourselves to believe that some things are under our control because life has been favorable enough to provide to us an environment that seems to have components of conscious control. That realization sometimes makes me sad, but I’ve learned to be ok with sadness and not mask it with outward rage or bitterness.

2- Inspired to be better. I got really tired by day 4, and I realize I can’t have that happen. I was having difficulty keeping my eyes open, my feet hurt because I wore new shoes and had to walk back and forth from the venue to the warm up area. My ass hurt from sitting on seats/bleachers. I wasn’t focused on my nutrition so I fell low on energy. After the competition, I had to literally bolt out of the arena and go to my hotel to lay down. It took me about 4 hours of laying down, stretching, movement work, and breathing exercises to center myself before I felt calm enough in my gut to digest food. If I go back to the Games as a coach in the future, I must have a stronger heart, more resilient feet, a stronger metabolism, better digestive capacity when I am feeling nerves, and better ability to find clarity of thought in crowds and loud noise. I found myself in the stands of the coliseum nauseous from the intensity of the bass coming out of the speakers and unable to think because it was so loud. As well, I think I may still have some work to do emotionally because there were numerous times in the competition where I had day dreams of starting fights for no other reason to release the aggression that is bubbling up inside of me. Which leads me to emotion 3…

3- Angry. As much as I’d like to pretend that I am the happiest most peaceful guy in the world, there is a BIG part of me that is hateful of people who have accomplished, and get to experience things I want to experience. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have that quality. But I can’t really help having a well of rage build up inside of me. I know I am no longer an athlete but it is hard to suppress the competitive instinct, and for whatever reason losses trigger a response in me that makes me dark, angry, resentful, and I must consciously work to harness that energy and use it to productively build purpose. Luckily, the periods of darkness are getting shorter and shorter, and two days after the games I was back into my work flow and not focused on the anger anymore, so I’d say that is progress.

4- Grateful for the opportunities and people I get to continually meet and learn from. There is a quote: “the best coaches are the ones who have the best athletes.” It’s kind of an obvious quote but I think that I’ve realized that the attraction of great athletes is beyond my control. I am not the smartest guy out there, I am not the toughest, I am not the most experienced, I do not have the best track record, I haven’t written a book, I haven’t built a champion, but somehow great people continue trust me. And many people believe in what we’re trying to do. They say that you should pay attention to the people who are willing to stand beside you when things aren’t going well because those are your true friends. That is good to know because we are beginning to amass a large following and group of coaches before things are perfect, so I know that I have real friends. That makes me grateful and holds me accountable to my work. And the feeling of gratitude is a pleasant one that feeds into itself and makes me work even harder. So I will continue to cultivate that one and let go of resentment and skepticism when it arises.

5- Frustrated. The foreign training cultures seem to be outperforming the United States dramatically. I’ve actually noticed how much more they invest in continuing education and camps just through my own experiences. When I have conversations with them, it’s obvious to see that they are taking a very mindful approach, blending scientific thought with toughness training, working on the details of movement quality; they seem aware of the complexity of the problem they are trying to solve. Many great coaches and coaching environments exist in the U.S., but I would guess many of them would probably ‘follow the money’ to big sports. However, it seems that as a collective group of coaches in the fitness space, if we want to grow the monetary potential of the sport, we have to build better environments to build superstars. Superstars cannot be built if they have mind-states that cultivate injury riddled with short careers. They need to be healthy, wealthy, positive, enthusiastic, interesting, and advocates for the sport after they are done to inspire the next generations to invest in the sport. I feel it should be our job to create more opportunities, more professionalism, more thought about mental/emotional/spiritual/physical health in the development of athletes in the sport and not this continual quest to take this “toughness”/”militaristic” view of training that is obviously not going to cut it in the future of the sport. I feel if we band together and get smarter about how we come together in the name of progress we can pool our resources to learn from one another and cultivate a culture that is rich and varied. Being a big fish in a small pond is not a target I want to shoot for. Instead I want to play my part in bringing the culture together and expanding the pond into a vast environment. Currently, fitness culture seems to push against complex thought in the fitness space. It doesn’t seem to be working out for the U.S. in normal health metrics and it seems to be bleeding into our sport. So I’d like to dedicate any success I have to reversing that trend.

6- Calm and focused. Experiences and relationships are all we really have in life. They define our legacies. I don’t think my ego would be content if my story were to end here, as someone who is constantly working, training, and striving to push the people who trust me, but who never accomplished the outcome I have envisioned. But, something shifted in me over the course of the last couple years and I seem to have developed an unshakeable sense of confidence in my ability to navigate life. Perhaps it came from a lessening of the fear of death or poverty or having great people around me who believe in what I’m doing. I don’t know where life is going to take me. I don’t know if I will ever be a part of a CF Games champion’s story. I don’t know if TTT will become the premium provider of coaching and education in the world of sports and fitness. But I do know that for right now I will dedicate myself to the people who trust me, I will continue training as hard as possible because I love the challenge, I will continue to try to build my business because people are counting on me, and I will stay optimistic about the dreams I have for the future.

~ Max

Part 4- My emotions (you're here now)

Created By
Max El-Hag

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